Thursday, November 24, 2016

Straight 4 - 8

                                               Image result for nascar champion jimmie johnson 2016

I said a little prayer to God before the race - "if You couldn't see your way clear to let Hillary win the election, at least, let Jimmie claim the championship. Thank you."

Through most of the race, it seemed as if He wasn't paying attention. Jimmie had arguably the slowest of the four contending cars, with Kyle Larson having the best one of all. The 48 had to start at the rear of the field and flew up to the top five but then, while Carl, Joey and Kyle played around up front, Jimmie slogged along in 6th through 10th, well behind the other three.

"Well," I sighed to my dog and three cats, "it looks like the Drive for Se7en is going to go on for at least another year." They all gave me a sympathetic look, not that they cared about the race, but they could tell from my tone of voice that I was sad.

And then, suddenly, everything changed. Carl and Joey got into it and Carl was done. Even wanting Jimmie to win, I found that rather heart-breaking. Carl looked to be the favorite before that wreck happened. I didn't think anyone did anything wrong, they were both simply giving it all they had....that's what you do when you're going for a championship. And I'll admit that I had a bit of a piss-off toward Carl when he was at Roush. He seemed to think he was a cut above his teammates and his trick of coming back on the track after he wrecked to drive Brad into the fence was a low-life move in my eyes. But he seems to have changed since going to JGR and he certainly was a class act at Homestead, going up to Joey's pit box to wish that team well, in spite of his own disappointment.

When they went back to racing after the last caution, Jimmie was in front with Kyle Larson. I didn't think he'd be able to pass Kyle, who'd been terrific on restarts all night, but he didn't have to. He only had to finish ahead of Kyle B and Joey. But sheer willpower seem to push him ahead and when he cleared Kyle L and set sail, I knew he had it. He won his 80th race, knocked another first off his list of tracks he taken a trophy from with Homestead, winning both he race and the championship. My friend, Kathy, who lives about 45 miles from me swore she could here me screaming from there.

Ever since I've been a Jimmie Johnson fan, I've had to fight with the haters. There didn't seem to be so many of them this time. Most people seemed genuinely happy to have seen history made. You can put down a driver as much as you want but you can't really deny the talent that it takes to win seven championships. And anyway, the history books don't record comments, only achievements and so JJ joins the ranks of legends - Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

The other championship races were great too. It was nice to see Johnny Sauter finally pull it off in the truck series. He's definitely paid his dues over the years.

The Xfinity race was kind of a cluster at the end. People wondered why Cole Whitt's crew chief left him out on old tires but I heard it was because they didn't have anymore tires. Still, he should have pulled to the bottom and let the contenders pass him. Who knows what would have happened if he'd done that but it doesn't matter now. Daniel Suarez prevailed and that appears to have been a popular win. I saw some of the celebration in Mexico and they were beside themselves with joy seeing their hero become the first international NASCAR champion.

Now we wait....for the banquet in Las Vegas and to learn who the new Cup sponsor will be and to see where Greg Biffle lands and to look forward to Junior's return to Daytona, and, and, and.....


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

So Call Me A Hypocrite!

                                                    Image result for nascar jimmie johnson wins martinsville   

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Everyone knows sports fans are perverse. Take the World Series for, example. I'm rooting for the Cubs, not because I care so passionately for the Cubs but because my friends all do. And it's been so long since they won a Series, it would be such a heartwarming story if they took home the title. On the other hand, geez, it's been a long time since the Indians won too, not as long as the Cubs, but over half a century, so that would be a happy ending as well. Really, I'll be pretty satisfied whoever wins...because I root for the underdog and they are both underdogs.

Really, I root for the underdog in almost every instance. I'm known for that. I always want the little guy to win, the one who hasn't ever got a blue ribbon or crossed the finish line first, the horse that goes off at 100 to 1 odds. I empathize with how happy they and their teams and their families will be.

There's one huge exception to my habit of cheering on the underdog and that's in my own sport of NASCAR. Jimmie Johnson is the driver who has my heart. I always want him to win even though he has 79 trophies and six championships. The hell with the underdog! Go, Jimmie!

Back during his streak of taking home championships, people told me - "he wins too much," but I didn't think so. They told me, "it's not fair," and I said "too bad, so sad". They said, "I'd like to see someone new have a chance," but I shrugged them off.

Now he's gone a few years and those new people got their chance - Tony and Kevin and Brad and Kyle. More power to them but now I'd like to see the 48 win it's 7th championship, to tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Then I'd like to see them go on and beat the record and win an 8th.

Because sports fans are hypocritical like that when it comes to their own teams. So sue me.

Watching JGR during the Chase is sort of a puzzle. After a stellar first part of the season, the performance hasn't been there since the Chase started. I wonder if it has to do with Gibbs being the Sprint Cup team that comes closest to having team orders, a rather milder set than we usually think of, but still....

Maybe they are making it more complicated than it should be. Instead of each of their drivers going out and going for broke to try to win every race, which is the ideal in racing, they seem to have a strategy that is too precise and gets in their way. They treat each other rather gently. They courteously let one another in line. At Talladega, they forswore any thoughts of winning and simply rode around in the back and took their points. I understand why they did it that way but I think you lose something in the translation. Maybe drivers lose their edge when they deliberately try not to win. Maybe you can't divide up a championship run into four equal parts. I think maybe the driver mentality has to be "every man for himself" to get the best out of them.

It was great to see Jeff again at Martinsville. That track will hardly seem the same without him. But I'll be glad to see Junior back next year. He's looking healthy and happy. I enjoyed hearing him in the broadcast booth where he did a fine job.

The next two races? I hope Jimmie wins at Texas. Clutch driver that he is, I wouldn't be surprised to see Kevin in Victory Lane at Phoenix. Driver on points, probably Kyle Busch. Don't use me for your fantasy picks though. I'm a horrible guesser.